Elizabeth Truss debates with HM Treasury

There have been 28 exchanges between Elizabeth Truss and HM Treasury

Mon 8th July 2019 NHS Pensions: Taxation 45 interactions (1,580 words)
Tue 2nd July 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 45 interactions (836 words)
Tue 21st May 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 47 interactions (825 words)
Tue 9th April 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 67 interactions (977 words)
Tue 26th March 2019 Section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993 24 interactions (1,846 words)
Tue 5th March 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 46 interactions (648 words)
Tue 29th January 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 52 interactions (900 words)
Thu 20th December 2018 Treasury (Ministerial Corrections) 3 interactions (95 words)
Tue 18th December 2018 ONS Decisions: Student Loans (Urgent Question) 61 interactions (1,810 words)
Tue 11th December 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 52 interactions (962 words)
Tue 6th November 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 37 interactions (718 words)
Tue 11th September 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 49 interactions (889 words)
Tue 24th July 2018 Public Sector Pay (Urgent Question) 57 interactions (2,101 words)
Tue 3rd July 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 57 interactions (969 words)
Tue 3rd July 2018 Treasury Spending: Grants to Devolved Institutions 11 interactions (1,269 words)
Tue 22nd May 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 42 interactions (809 words)
Mon 30th April 2018 Economic and Fiscal Outlook 10 interactions (1,190 words)
Tue 17th April 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 51 interactions (1,106 words)
Thu 22nd March 2018 The Economy 28 interactions (2,822 words)
Tue 27th February 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 56 interactions (1,174 words)
Tue 16th January 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 41 interactions (999 words)
Mon 18th December 2017 Finance (No. 2) Bill 3 interactions (5 words)
Wed 29th November 2017 Exiting the EU: Costs (Urgent Question) 74 interactions (2,372 words)
Tue 28th November 2017 Oral Answers to Questions 58 interactions (1,072 words)
Wed 22nd November 2017 Budget Resolutions 3 interactions (74 words)
Tue 24th October 2017 Oral Answers to Questions 39 interactions (928 words)
Tue 18th July 2017 Oral Answers to Questions 37 interactions (774 words)
Wed 5th July 2017 Public Sector Pay Cap (Urgent Question) 112 interactions (3,952 words)

NHS Pensions: Taxation

Elizabeth Truss Excerpts
Monday 8th July 2019

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)(Urgent Question - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:22 p.m.

To ask the Chief Secretary to the Treasury to make a statement on the implications for patients of the taxation of NHS pensions.

Elizabeth Truss Portrait The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Elizabeth Truss) - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:22 p.m.

The Government keep public sector pay and pensions policy under constant review in the context of the wider public finances. For the majority of savers, pension contributions are tax-free. The annual allowance is a fiscal measure which operates across all registered pension schemes in both the public and private sectors, alongside the lifetime allowance. The measure is kept under review by the Government to ensure that the benefit of tax relief on pension schemes remains affordable.

Some senior clinicians face pension tax charges owing to the increase in the value of their pension accrual. I understand that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care is currently engaged in discussions with senior representatives of the British Medical Association. The Government are taking this issue very seriously, and that is the right place for those discussions to be held. However, the House will recognise that the same tax rules must apply identically to everyone in the same situation, regardless of their employer. It is simply not possible for the tax rules applying to senior clinicians in the NHS to be different from those that apply everywhere else.

I understand that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care is to publish a consultation on proposals for a new 50:50 scheme providing pension flexibility for clinicians in the NHS. The scheme will give senior clinicians in England and Wales more choice in respect of their pension accrual, and will thus control tax charges. Since last autumn, all members of the NHS scheme on the taper have been able to elect for the pension scheme to pay any tax charges now, and so avoid any impacts on take-home pay, in return for an actuarially fair reduction in their pensions.

I recognise the concerns that have been raised, and I assure the House that the Government will continue to monitor the impact of pensions policies on public service delivery.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:27 p.m.

The unforeseen consequences of recent pensions legislation, initially supported in all parts of the House, are now resulting in very worrying consequences for the NHS as hospital doctors who have regularly worked weekend overtime in order to get waiting lists down, are understandably refusing to continue to do so because they are being made worse off as a result. Can we imagine a conversation between couples along the lines of, “So you are leaving me and the children again this weekend to go voluntarily to work to make our family worse off?” It is not going to happen, is it? The same applies for GPs, many of whom are now doing fewer sessions each week than they want to and their patients desperately need in order not to be made worse off by breaching their annual pension allowance.

We do not have conscription for healthcare staff; we cannot force them to do weekend overtime or more sessions than they want to, and it is not surprising that they choose not to if they are being made worse off as a result. For example, in The Guardian this morning we learned of one senior anaesthetist who worked 27 Saturdays last year in order to reduce waiting lists and has now said he cannot afford to work any extra Saturday shifts this year because it would give him a large tax bill he cannot afford to pay.

Very few doctors have earnings that exceed the adjusted income threshold of £150,000 but due to the inclusion of hypothetical pension growth as income, doctors are being affected by tapering. This is different from what the Chancellor said in Treasury questions on 21 May when he said that someone has to be earning over £150,000 a year before the tapered annual allowance affects them. Taxable income and adjusted income are very different as regards pensions taxation.

The Government should also be aware that members of the imposed 2015 pension scheme had no option but to become a member of multiple schemes including the GP CARE—career average revalued earnings—scheme and as a result incur significantly higher annual allowance tax bills than those members who are protected members in only the final salary scheme. This means that all full-time consultants who are a member of more than one NHS pension scheme will be affected by the tapered annual allowance and will need to reconsider how much work they do for the NHS to mitigate these tax charges. Furthermore this punitive pensions tax penalty means that doctors are not just working less but are retiring earlier than they would like to in order to avoid significant additional tax charges. In a survey of more than 2,400 consultants, more than half cited pensions taxation as a reason for their decision to retire early.

I therefore have five questions for the Chief Secretary. As the 50-50 pensions accrual option proposed does not remove the unintended consequences that are forcing doctors to reduce the work they do, can this be included in the consultation so that this issue is raised? Once the scope of the consultation has been extended to cover this essential aspect can it then be launched as quickly as possible? Can the consultation be brief as the issues are well-known and well-rehearsed, and can the Government then respond quickly to it and if necessary legislate given that there is likely to be cross-party support for these important measures to protect the NHS? Can timely pensions statements be provided to all NHS staff who are affected by these measures? Finally, can the Government confirm that they understand the urgency and importance of this issue and that they will act without delay to prevent a deteriorating situation from getting even more acute?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:29 p.m.

The answer to my hon. Friend’s first question is that the Health Secretary is currently in discussions with the British Medical Association and other health representatives about precisely what can be done, and of course the consultation will come out shortly. Some of the issues he mentioned in terms of legislation will clearly be a matter for the new Prime Minister and Administration, but the fact that my hon. Friend has raised this urgent question today will draw to people’s attention the urgency of this issue and one would expect it to be considered very early on by a new Administration. The point I was trying to make earlier is that there is a fundamental distinction between how we deal with the issues in the NHS, on which the Health Secretary is leading, and the broader issue of our pension system, which is there to encourage people to save. That has to be considered in a holistic manner so we cannot just design it around one workforce. It has to be designed to work for everybody in both the public and private sectors. That takes time of course, and we are working through some of the conclusions of the reforms that took place a few years ago.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds (Oxford East) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:29 p.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) for asking this urgent question. It follows a Westminster Hall debate two weeks ago on this issue, when Members from across the House raised concerns about the Government’s mismanagement of the interaction between their pensions relief policies and the NHS pension schemes.

The worst-case scenario that we all feared has become a reality. Hospital leaders are raising the alarm that waiting lists for routine surgery have risen by up to 50%. Unless this issue is dealt with, there is a risk that the approach of the end of the financial year will lead to even greater levels of working to rule after the summer.

The changes that have led to these issues relate to the interaction of the taper, which George Osborne introduced in the summer Budget of 2015, with other rules on tax reliefs and the three NHS pension schemes. Despite decisions being taken around these measures some time ago, there appears to have been next to no communication by the Government with representative groups about this issue until the crisis had already begun. That is very different from the “constant review” that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has just referred to.

It is fair that tax reliefs should be consistent with other core principles of taxation, and that the pension allowance should decline progressively for those people who earn high incomes. However, at issue here is the interaction of that system with the NHS pension schemes, on which the representative organisations maintain they were not properly consulted. Many consultants are only now becoming aware of their liabilities. I asked two weeks ago, and I ask again, whether the Government believe that their communication with those affected has been sufficient? Furthermore, does the Chief Secretary to the Treasury believe it is acceptable that many of those affected have not even received pension statements in a timely manner, due to delays by Capita? Surely that is only exacerbating these problems.

The Government have maintained—the Chief Secretary to the Treasury did this again a moment ago—that this issue will be solved by the 50:50 pension option proposed in the NHS people plan released last month. However, a number of representative bodies have already expressed concerns about this option. So my third and last question to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury is: what discussions has her Department had with the Department of Health and with those representative bodies about the 50:50 scheme? It has been painfully clear from the Westminster Hall debate, and again this afternoon, that there has been an abject lack of co-ordination across Departments on this issue.

I am sure that many of us are concerned about the lasting impact of today’s crisis. NHS staff retention is already poor. This issue is one of many affecting dedicated senior staff, with large numbers raising concerns about levels of stress and a general lack of resource. A whole variety of Government failures is driving these retention problems. Today’s crisis is likely to add to this, with confusion over pension relief pushing many to retire earlier than they previously would have done, or encouraging some to opt to take on additional private work. I am concerned not only for those consultants but for their patients. There are currently 100,000 NHS staff vacancies; that is one in 11 of all NHS posts. This latest failure will see yet more delays for people in desperate need of care, unless the whole of this Government, working together, get a grip.

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:32 p.m.

We acknowledge that there is an issue. That is why the Health Secretary is poised to launch the consultation—

Break in Debate

Mr Speaker Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:34 p.m.

Order.

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:33 p.m.

That is also why the Secretary of State is meeting representatives of the medical profession today. The hon. Lady asks whether the 50:50 scheme is enough and whether more can be done. Those are precisely the issues that the Health Secretary is discussing with those representatives of the medical profession. Of course he is working hand in hand with the Treasury to find NHS-specific solutions to deal with the problems that we all acknowledge, and which have been raised today by my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous). We all acknowledge that.

The important thing to remember is that, while we need to look for NHS-specific solutions—which is precisely what the Health Secretary is working on—the broader issue of taxation cannot be looked at just for one profession. The broader issue of the pension system has to be looked at in the round and in the whole. I am not going to stand at the Dispatch Box today and announce an entirely new pensions policy. We are pragmatically dealing with the situation that has arisen in the NHS, and of course we continue to review our pensions system to ensure that it makes financial sense for those people contributing to it as well as for the Exchequer. We pay more than £50 billion-worth of pension tax relief and it is important that we get value for money for that—that is why the reforms were conducted earlier—but of course we continue to review the arrangements to ensure that they are providing value for money as well as the right incentives for people to save for their later age.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:34 p.m.

In west Berkshire and Wokingham we desperately need to recruit and retain more doctors and other senior medical personnel. Will the Treasury look at the 60% tax rate that kicks in at £100,000 for a band of income above that? A lot of important public service workers, not just in the NHS, are caught in that band and are paying higher marginal tax rates than people earning a lot more.

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:35 p.m.

My right hon. Friend makes an interesting point. In general I am in favour of lower taxes and a simpler tax system that always rewards those who go out to work.

Dr Philippa Whitford Portrait Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:36 p.m.

Tapering lifetime allowances have already driven many senior doctors out of the NHS in their late 50s. The issue now is the tapering annual allowance, which is reduced by £1 for every extra £2 earned. This issue was raised in 2017; it has not just come to light. In May the Chancellor talked about a threshold of £150,000, yet the problem kicks in at £110,000, and many senior consultants and GPs earn above that. The average extra bill is £18,500, but many have faced tax bills of almost £100,000. The British Medical Association survey shows that three quarters are citing this as a reason to retire. At the moment all income, including non-pensionable income, is included. That does not make sense, so can that be changed? It is not just earnings, but the growth of a pension, yet people might not live long enough for that to be income, so why is it counted? The BMA does not think that the 50:50 approach will solve the issue, so will the Treasury have open consultation and, because this is about interaction with the pension system, look at all the options? Otherwise, we will face a workforce meltdown.

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:36 p.m.

As I said, the consultation will be launched fairly soon—the Health Secretary is looking at that—and people will of course be able to feed their views into it.

Steve Brine Portrait Steve Brine (Winchester) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:37 p.m.

It is welcome to see a Treasury Minister answering this question; it was a Health Minister in the Westminster Hall debate. As a former cancer Minister, I was incredibly proud of our Government’s 75% ambition, and I doubt whether there is a Member in this House who does not support that. The news from my trust is that this pension issue is hitting radiology, which is hitting cancer diagnoses. Theatre lists are being cancelled because we cannot get anaesthetic cover, as my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) mentioned earlier, so may I stress to the Minister the urgency of the situation? We need to grip this and fast, because the longer this goes on and the further it falls, the harder it will be to retrieve. Urgency is the key word here.

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:37 p.m.

I can assure my hon. Friend that I spoke with the Health Secretary earlier today. We are seeking to get the consultation out as soon as possible. The Government have been working on this now for a number of weeks.

Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Ind) Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:38 p.m.

This matters first and foremost because of the impact on patient care, not only through increased waiting times in hospitals but in patient’s ability to see a general practitioner out of hours. May I stress the urgency of the situation, as others have? Patients cannot afford to wait for the extended process of finding a new leader of the Conservative party.

May I briefly flag up another issue? One of my constituents, who wrote to me recently to say that he had requested an update on his pension, was told that it would take three months. He was then informed that Primary Care Support England had not updated his pension records for three years and that he would have to wait a further three months once they had been updated. Will the Minister also look at the delays facing doctors trying to get an update on their situation?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:39 p.m.

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. I will raise that matter with the Health Secretary. It is for the NHS to make sure that its pensions are properly administrated. As I have said, we are dealing with this issue urgently. We are not waiting for the election of a new Conservative Prime Minister to do that. My point about a new Prime Minister was that general tax and pension reforms are not likely to be happening in the next two weeks.

Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

I thank my right hon. Friend for her statement. Will she confirm that this problem, as she said at the beginning, was created in 2016? Working hard for a few weeks now is probably necessary, but it ought to have been possible, by paying attention to the representatives of consultants and GPs and to those in these sorts of areas with similar earnings, to realise that this problem should not have been allowed to continue for quite so long. Will the Minister’s advisers look at the British Medical Association’s “Frequently asked questions”, which in February spelt out many of these issues? I ask, for the sake of those involved and the patients they wish to serve, that there should be a bit more speed—I almost gave it in Latin, but I might have sounded like a Tory leadership candidate. Get on with it, please.

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:40 p.m.

I am strongly receiving the message in favour of urgency.

Mr Ben Bradshaw Portrait Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:39 p.m.

My local hospital made it clear today that the 50:50 contribution proposal will not solve this problem because, as other Members have said, the problem is the taper. The problem is in the Treasury, not in the Department of Health and Social Care. How many more people have to wait longer for their operations before the Chief Secretary to the Treasury focuses on her day job and gets a solution to this problem?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:41 p.m.

The answers to the problems within the NHS lie within the Department of Health and Social Care, which is why the Department is launching a consultation. As I said earlier, we need to make sure that the pension tax system is designed around all employees. Of course NHS employees are extremely important, but we need to make sure the system works for all employees. That is a longer-term task, but we are specifically looking at the 50:50 idea in the consultation. No doubt the Health Secretary is talking about other ideas that could be introduced, and I am sure he is very interested in the right hon. Gentleman’s views, too.

Craig Mackinlay Portrait Craig Mackinlay (South Thanet) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:41 p.m.

We have created the most unbelievably complicated tax system. If working additional time makes the pension pot larger, there could be a 55% tax charge when taking those surplus benefits, and restrictions on the annual allowance are resulting in these large tax bills.

It is not surprising that many health professionals are choosing not to do the extra work or are simply retiring earlier. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) makes a key point, because extra earnings would take many of these people into the slice above £100,000 to £125,000, where a 62% tax charge applies.

This is not just an NHS problem. My concern is that we are putting a brake on those entrepreneurs who want to create enterprise, jobs and the tax payments of the future. A simple step would be to get rid of the lifetime allowance.

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard

I agree with my hon. Friend that we need a simpler tax system that has the right incentives throughout. It is a major task for the new Prime Minister to ensure that our tax system is simpler and has proper incentives. My hon. Friend can raise these issues during the consultation, but there is no doubt in my mind that the British tax system is too complex at present.

Dame Diana Johnson Portrait Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:42 p.m.

I am taken aback by the Minister’s complacency. We all know that patients are suffering because of this policy. What can be done to ensure that doctors who want to do the right thing by taking extra work and doing extra shifts are not left out of pocket?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:42 p.m.

I disagree with the hon. Lady. We are taking steps to deal with this issue, and the Health Secretary is currently meeting representatives from the medical profession to discuss this in more detail. Wide-ranging reforms to the taxation and pension systems are not things to be wished overnight; they have to be properly worked through.

Richard Drax Portrait Richard Drax (South Dorset) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:43 p.m.

May I add to the sense of urgency by speaking up on behalf of the chief executive of my local community hospital trust? This is affecting not only clinicians but senior staff, too. They want to continue in many cases, but now they are leaving. These are highly valuable, experienced people whom we need to run these trusts. Please can we sort this out as soon as we can?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:43 p.m.

My hon. Friend is right about ensuring these people do not face very high marginal rates and an undue tax burden, which is precisely what the Opposition propose—they want to see taxes raised for higher earners.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) (LD) - Parliament Live - Hansard

The Chief Secretary keeps saying this is a matter for the NHS, and certainly the problems it has created for waiting lists and operation times are a problem for the NHS, but does she not accept that this problem has been created by the Treasury? The Treasury needs to look at how to resolve the problem, and it needs to consider what is creating these problems within the NHS, rather than passing the buck to the Health Secretary.

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:44 p.m.

There are specific issues affecting the NHS that the Health Secretary is rightly looking at and is about to conduct the consultation on. As I have said, the Treasury constantly reviews our tax system to make sure that it has the right incentives in it and that it is helping people to save for later years.

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:45 p.m.

In addition to the important points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) and my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Craig Mackinlay), would it not be simpler and fairer to restrict pension relief to the basic rate and scrap all annual and lifetime allowances?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:45 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for his policy suggestion. I am afraid that during this urgent question I will be unable to commit to it, but it is certainly an interesting idea.

Cat Smith Portrait Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:46 p.m.

Constituents have been raising this issue with me. Not only have clinicians been affected, but patients have been left waiting longer for treatment, which seems totally unnecessary, given that the problem is that clinicians who are willing and wanting to work are in a position where they would not be earning money for working. They are not prepared to sacrifice that family time to come in to do those extra hours that they have been doing for many, many years. This problem could be fixed very quickly if urgent action was taken by the Treasury. I am glad the Health Secretary is meeting representatives from the BMA, but will the Chief Secretary make a commitment that someone from the Treasury will meet the BMA? After all, this was a problem created in the Treasury.

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:46 p.m.

I would be interested to hear precisely what the hon. Lady is suggesting the Treasury does. The Treasury has to look at the pension tax system for all professions and occupations, and it is right that the Health Secretary speaks specifically to those operating in the medical sphere and the Treasury looks at the broad overview.

Mr Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:47 p.m.

For the first time, I find myself in agreement with the contributions from the Front Benchers from the Opposition and the Scottish National party. This problem has been coming down the track for at least three years and nothing has been done to stop it. The last thing the NHS needs is senior doctors refusing to work overtime at the weekends and our waiting lists getting worse, not better. The Chief Secretary has bravely come out to bat for the Treasury today, but we must avoid this silo mentality between the Treasury and the Department of Health and Social Care. This is a problem for the whole of the Government, and she and the Health Secretary need to get it sorted out urgently.

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:48 p.m.

We are working closely with the Health Secretary on this issue, and that is the right way to do things; it is right for the Health Secretary to deal with organisations such as the BMA and it is right for the Treasury to look at the overview. The Chancellor has looked at this over the past three years, and I am sure the representations my hon. Friend has made today will be taken very seriously by him.

Mr Paul Sweeney (Glasgow North East) (Lab/Co-op) Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:48 p.m.

It is the responsibility of the Treasury to ensure that all public services are operating as efficiently as they can be, and that remit extends beyond NHS England; it extends across all parts of the NHS in the United Kingdom. Indeed, a friend who is a trainee surgeon in Glasgow was just telling me that the entire ear, nose and throat elective list was cancelled this weekend in Glasgow because of a shortage of anaesthetists. That arose because cover could not be found, owing to this perverse incentive we are discussing. Will the Chief Secretary therefore ensure that she writes not only to NHS England but to her counterpart in Scotland to ensure that this issue is effectively understood and the evidence is collated from all parts of the NHS in the UK?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:48 p.m.

I will certainly make sure that is the case.

Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:49 p.m.

The workforce is the No. 1 priority in the NHS, along with delivering the NHS plan, but we seem to be dealing here with a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. When the right hand of the NHS is rightly commissioning Baroness Dido Harding to do a workforce plan, the left hand of Treasury policy is undermining that. Will the Chief Secretary make sure that Baroness Dido Harding’s work is fully integrated into the work she is doing on this.

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard

Yes.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:49 p.m.

Around six weeks ago, I raised this issue with the Prime Minister, who was sitting next to the Chancellor at the time, and I was told that they would come back to me. Since then, nothing has happened, and lots of my constituents—consultants and members of the public—are concerned about the deterioration in the situation at the hospitals. Surely the Chief Secretary or the Chancellor could sit down together with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and thrash this out.

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:49 p.m.

I will make sure this is immediately drawn to the attention of the Prime Minister.

Peter Grant Portrait Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:50 p.m.

I place on record the fact that I am married to a GP, although she is unlikely to be affected by the changes.

I recently attended a briefing for Fife’s elected representatives at which Fife Health and Social Care Partnership confirmed that an inability to recruit GPs means that the out-of-hours GP service in Glenrothes will remain closed almost permanently. We were given an update on the worrying number of GP practices—more than one in five—that are having difficulty recruiting and retaining GPs. The director of the partnership told us in terms that the pensions issue is a real one for medical staff, not just for GPs. In that context, it is not acceptable for the Treasury or, indeed, the Home Office, under reserved powers, to lob a hand grenade into our health service and expect the four devolved health services to fix the problem. Will the Chief Secretary tell us what assessment was made of the impact of the changes on the health service? Will she undertake to publish that assessment in full?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:51 p.m.

This is a matter that took place before I was a Minister in the Treasury, but I commit to find the relevant paperwork and send it to the hon. Gentleman.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP) - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:51 p.m.

Will the Chief Secretary accept that such changes to the pensions process make it seem not worth while for consultants to do overtime, as they are taxed at a high rate multiple times? Furthermore, this will have a detrimental effect on waiting lists and, more importantly, on people’s lives. Will she be prepared to rethink the changes to ensure that those whom we need to work overtime and go the extra mile are not horrifically penalised for doing so?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard

A number of issues have been raised in respect of the complexity of the tax system and the need for further tax reform. I am sure the Treasury will take that seriously.

Oral Answers to Questions

Elizabeth Truss Excerpts
Tuesday 2nd July 2019

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab) - Hansard

1. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the adequacy of social security spending in tackling poverty throughout the UK. [911674]

Elizabeth Truss Portrait The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Elizabeth Truss) - Hansard

Thanks to our welfare reforms, we have been able to get more people into work, we have the lowest unemployment rate since 1974 and more than 667,000 fewer children are living in workless households than in 2010.

Debbie Abrahams - Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 11:35 a.m.

Some £30 billion of support to working-age people has been cut from the social security budget, and there is more still to come. Eight out of nine disabled people will not benefit from the measures introduced in last autumn’s Budget and over 4 million are living in poverty. In the Chancellor’s last few weeks in post, what will he do to right this wrong?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard

I do not agree with the hon. Lady’s analysis. The fact is that income inequality is lower now than it was in 2010 and absolute poverty after housing costs is at a historic low for children.

Mr Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

Can the Chief Secretary confirm that the number of children living in workless households is now the lowest ever record achieved in our country?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is because of our welfare reforms and economic policy that more people are now in work and are benefiting from our cuts to basic rate tax, giving working families £1,200 a year extra in their pay packets.

Alison McGovern Portrait Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 11:35 a.m.

The Chancellor has been brave recently, speaking out on how no deal will impact our economy. Poverty will only get worse if we face no deal, so will the Chief Secretary be as brave as the Chancellor and tell this House the truth about poverty and no deal?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard

I can tell the hon. Lady what would lead to greater poverty in this country: a Government who wanted to overthrow capitalism, declare business the enemy and ruin the private sector businesses that are employing people and giving them extra wages.

Kirsty Blackman Portrait Kirsty Blackman (Aberdeen North) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 11:36 a.m.

The Chancellor has been at the forefront of arguing that a decade of austerity was necessary. This has led to 24% of Scottish children and 30% of English children being in poverty. If the Chancellor believes that this pain was not ideological and unnecessary, will he vote against a Tory tax cuts for the rich Budget, as proposed by the Prime Minister’s most likely successor?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard

With respect to the hon. Lady, she clearly did not hear my earlier answer, when I said that absolute poverty after housing costs is at a historic low for children. That is true right across our country. Of course, the Scottish National party Government in Scotland could take steps to help children by improving educational standards; that is what they should be focusing on.

Kirsty Blackman Portrait Kirsty Blackman - Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 11:38 a.m.

The Minister might not want to tackle inequality, but the Scottish Government do. The polls show that a majority of Scottish people support the tax changes that mean the Scottish Government can fund a £10 a week payment to families with the most vulnerable children, mitigating the ideological austerity obsession of this Conservative Government. If the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) becomes Prime Minister, 53% of Scots will support independence. And who can blame them, given the Scottish Government’s plans to support and help young people and this Government’s ideological austerity obsession?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 11:38 a.m.

The reality is that the Scottish Government are now forecast to bring in lower rates of income tax than expected, because they have not followed through on our raising of the threshold to £50,000, so people in Scotland on £50,000 are now paying £1,500 more tax. The fact is that raising tax reduces incentives for people to get up the earnings ladder, reduces economic growth and means that we do not have the opportunities and funding for public services.

Mr Chris Leslie (Nottingham East) (Change UK) Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 11:38 a.m.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern) said, the poorest, most vulnerable people in society, even those who are in work but struggling to make ends meet, will be hit particularly hard by a catastrophic no-deal Brexit. The Minister cannot get away with simply deflecting this into an attack, which I would share, on the economic policies of the Labour party. This is the clearest, most present danger facing our country, and surely she will not happily move towards a no-deal Brexit.

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 11:39 a.m.

What the hon. Gentleman is missing is the fact that if we continue to delay Brexit, first, we would not be delivering on what British people voted for over three years ago; and secondly, there will be continued delay in our economy—a continued lack of investment—due to a lack of certainty.

Lyn Brown (West Ham) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 11:40 a.m.

Yesterday, the Chancellor slapped down both Tory leadership candidates for making irresponsible spending promises. Has the Minister noticed, as we have, that not one of those promises was aimed at lifting the 4 million children out of poverty? She is responsible for the management of Government finances—heaven help us! What does she think this says about the Tory party and the next Prime Minister?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard

I am incredibly proud of our record, as a Government, of reducing inequality. Income inequality is now lower than it was in 2010. We have also cut taxes for basic rate taxpayers by £1,200 a year and put an extra £630 into universal credit for working families.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP) - Hansard

2. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Scotland on the economic effect on Scotland of the UK leaving the EU. [911675]

Break in Debate

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab) - Hansard

8. What recent representations he has received from the Secretary of State for Education on the level of Government funding for early years education. [911681]

Elizabeth Truss Portrait The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Elizabeth Truss) - Parliament Live - Hansard

I regularly meet the Secretary of State for Education to talk about education funding. This issue will be settled as part of the spending review.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy - Parliament Live - Hansard

I hope the Chief Secretary has learned from those conversations and will go out to talk to early years providers. The shortfall in funding is having a huge impact. I visited a nursery in my constituency recently and it is clear that it is the staff who are bearing the brunt of it. They are on only just above minimum wage. I cannot help thinking that if the people working there were not women then perhaps their work would be valued more. Will she ensure that she makes representations, when the spending review comes, on lifting the freeze?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 12:04 p.m.

I point out to the hon. Lady that we are spending a record amount on childcare and early years support—£6 billion a year, which is £700 million more than in 2015—but of course we will look at representations as we go forward into the spending review and make sure we treat all parts of education fairly.

Steve Double Portrait Steve Double (St Austell and Newquay) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 12:05 p.m.

Will the Minister look particularly at funding for two-year-olds? Providers of early years education in my constituency tell me they lose money on providing that service for two-year-olds because there are significant additional costs in looking after two-year-olds but only a small uplift in the rate paid.

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 12:05 p.m.

My hon. Friend is right to raise this issue. We will look at that. It is important to acknowledge the progress this Government have made by introducing 30 hours of childcare for three and four-year-olds with working parents and 15 hours of childcare for children with parents on low incomes. Those are important steps. Of course, we will look in the spending review at the rates and ensure they are fair right across the country.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 12:06 p.m.

Children with higher educational needs are losing out even more. My local authority overspent by £760,000 last year and will overspend by £1.3 million this year and £1.9 million next year. Those children need this vital support in order to grow. Will the Minister look at the funding of the higher needs budget to ensure that local authorities can support those families?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard

The hon. Lady is certainly right that we have seen demand for special educational needs funding rise. We need to look at that as part of the spending review, from both a local government point of view and a Department for Education point of view.

Kirstene Hair (Angus) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard

9. What steps he is taking to maintain access to cash. [911683]

Break in Debate

Preet Kaur Gill Portrait Preet Kaur Gill (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard

T3. The west midlands has seen knife crime rise by 106% in the past five years, the average time for the Crown Prosecution Service to reach a decision has increased by 64% since 2013, and more than 2,000 police officers have been lost since austerity began in 2010. Will the Chief Secretary to the Treasury make money available to reverse 10 years of Government cuts to police services to ensure that my constituents can feel safe? [911701]

Elizabeth Truss Portrait The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Elizabeth Truss) - Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 12:29 p.m.

I reassure the hon. Lady that we have already put additional funding into the police grant, and we have raised spending power such that it increases in real terms. Additional surge funding has been put into the west midlands to acknowledge the specific issues in that area.

Mrs Pauline Latham Portrait Mrs Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

T8. I congratulate my right hon. Friend and this Government on the net zero emissions climate change commitment. What are his plans to achieve that goal? [911706]

Break in Debate

Marsha De Cordova Portrait Marsha De Cordova (Battersea) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

T10. Last month, the Wandsworth food bank published its yearly report. It showed that 5,770 emergency food parcels were handed out in a year—a 76% increase over five years; that nearly half of referrals were due to problems with social security, specifically the five-week wait for universal credit; and that nearly two thirds of those supported by a food bank adviser were disabled or had a long-term health condition. The consequence of Tory austerity is that record numbers of people are relying on charity to eat. Since this is probably the Chancellor’s final oral questions in post, may I ask whether he is proud of that legacy? [911708]

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 12:33 p.m.

The reality is that that we have got a record number of people into work. Universal credit has been shown to help more families get into work, and it has made work pay. We have also made adjustments to universal credit to shorten the wait time, and we have put in an extra £630 a week for families.

Eddie Hughes Portrait Eddie Hughes (Walsall North) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 12:34 p.m.

It has been a while since I asked the Chancellor about the blockchain and distributed ledger technology, so I was hoping that he could present an update on how the Treasury is embracing this new technology.

Break in Debate

Dame Diana Johnson Portrait Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 12:34 p.m.

As my right hon. Friend the shadow Chancellor has just pointed out, the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) has made £30 billion-worth of spending pledges and the right hon. Member for South West Surrey (Mr Hunt) has made £13 billion-worth of pledges. The Chancellor has said it will not happen on his watch, but that seems to suggest that a magic money tree has been found in the barren soil of the no deal for which we seem to be heading.

I want to ask the Chancellor about the pledges announced by the current Prime Minister in the past few weeks, which unfortunately have not included any compensation for the infected blood community. How have the Chancellor and the Treasury prioritised and costed those announcements?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 12:35 p.m.

The Prime Minister has made a number of announcements since 23 May, including on modern slavery and mental health. All these announcements have been costed and are affordable within existing budgets for 2019-20.

Andrea Jenkyns Portrait Andrea Jenkyns (Morley and Outwood) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 12:35 p.m.

What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that dementia care is adequately funded in the next spending review?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 12:35 p.m.

My hon. Friend makes a very good point about dementia care, which is one of the issues that will be looked at as part of the long-term plan for health. Due to the fiscal responsibility exercised by this Government, we are able to put extra money into health services to deal with issues such as dementia.

Rushanara Ali Portrait Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 12:36 p.m.

I welcome the Chancellor’s remarks about a no-deal Brexit and the disaster it would be for our country, costing jobs and livelihoods. Does he agree that both Conservative leadership candidates, who support a no-deal Brexit, should stop selling out the country to serve their own political ambitions? Will he commit to joining us in voting against a no deal when and if he returns to the Back Benches, and to voting with us on a no-confidence motion, if it comes to that, to stop a no deal?

Break in Debate

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard

The “All Kids Count” report, on the impact of the two-child limit after two years, was published last week by the Church of England, the Child Poverty Action Group, Women’s Aid, Turn2us and the Refugee Council. The report illustrates the devastating impact of the two-child policy, particularly on working families who are unable to compensate for the £2,780 a year cut by working longer hours. Before the Chancellor leaves office, will he scrap the two-child policy and its devastating impact on families?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 12:38 p.m.

The universal credit policy has been designed to make sure that people who are being supported by the Government are in a similar position to families who have to make their own financial decisions based on the wages they earn every week.

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 12:39 p.m.

The decision by the European Union to suspend the equivalence agreement with Switzerland seems to be very damaging. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has done a fantastic job over the past few years. Will he confirm whether the United Kingdom was consulted on whether the decision should go ahead?

Oral Answers to Questions

Elizabeth Truss Excerpts
Tuesday 21st May 2019

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
HM Treasury
Andy Slaughter Portrait Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

3. What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the fiscal effect of the no recourse to public funds condition on local authority budgets. [911003]

Elizabeth Truss Portrait The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Elizabeth Truss) - Hansard
21 May 2019, 11:46 a.m.

I have regular discussions with the Home Secretary and the Local Government Secretary about their budgets and how they are best managed.

Andy Slaughter Portrait Andy Slaughter - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 May 2019, 11:46 a.m.

Will the Minister at least acknowledge that there is a problem? London boroughs are spending about £50 million a year—which they have to spend, but usually under the Children Act 1989—on families in extremis with no recourse to public funds. Will she acknowledge that that is the case and look at how local authorities are funded?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 May 2019, 11:39 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman will be well aware that the spending review is coming up. If there is a specific issue with London local authorities or other local authorities, I would expect that issue to be raised by the Local Government Secretary, and I encourage the hon. Gentleman to meet him to discuss the issue.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands (Chelsea and Fulham) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

One specific issue in relation to the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham is the reopening of Hammersmith bridge. It is about time that the council got on with repairing and reopening the bridge. The council has a very good financial settlement. Will the Chief Secretary join me in knocking heads together between the council and Sadiq Khan’s Transport for London to get the bridge open?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 May 2019, 11:47 a.m.

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s efforts to build bridges across London and to improve London’s infrastructure. The London mayoral elections are coming up, and I suggest that people vote for somebody who is going to make change happen much quicker.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard

Will the Minister commit to ensuring that survivors of domestic abuse with insecure immigration status have safe and confidential reporting systems, without fear of being returned to their country of origin?

Mr Speaker Hansard

The question is actually about the fiscal effects of the no recourse to public funds condition. I think I know what the hon. Lady is driving at, but I hope that other people are as aware of the connection as I am.

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard

I have to agree, Mr Speaker; I am slightly struggling with the link between fiscal policy and the hon. Lady’s question. However, she might be interested to know that in the spending review we are specifically looking at how we can help women suffering domestic violence and how we can take the matter into account when deciding the future of our public spending.

Bob Seely Portrait Mr Bob Seely (Isle of Wight) (Con) - Hansard
21 May 2019, 11:48 a.m.

It was great to see the Minister on the Isle of Wight the week before last, although I am sad to say that there are not too many double entendres on her social media. She will be aware that I have written her a letter, asking her to ensure that the Isle of Wight becomes a pilot scheme in order for us to look at how we can better integrate Government services in the One Public Estate programme.

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard

It was certainly a weekend to remember on the Isle of Wight. It was my first ever visit to that great place, and I was impressed. The Isle of Wight provides a good opportunity to look at how we can do things differently, including how we can integrate services to cut down on bureaucracy and put more money on the frontline.

Mr Speaker Parliament Live - Hansard

I am sure that the people of the Isle of Wight were most gratified that the right hon. Lady was among their number, even if only for a relatively short period.

Break in Debate

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD) Parliament Live - Hansard

9. What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the adequacy of Government funding to mitigate climate change. [911010]

Elizabeth Truss Portrait The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Elizabeth Truss) - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 May 2019, 12:04 p.m.

We have a proud record as a nation, reducing carbon emissions faster than any other G7 country since 2000. We have done that with a combination of spending measures and market mechanisms.

Tom Brake Parliament Live - Hansard
21 May 2019, 12:04 p.m.

The Liberal Democrats were the first major political party to call for a zero-carbon Britain. We believe that target must be met by 2045. What assessment have the Government made of the climate change mitigation costs that would be incurred by 2045, of the support that would be needed for businesses to help them achieve a zero-carbon Britain by 2045, and of the health and environmental benefits?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 May 2019, 12:04 p.m.

We are currently assessing the report of the Climate Change Committee on this subject. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman is a regular reader of the Treasury Green Book on the way we assess investments. Last year, in the new Green Book, we specifically included looking at natural capital as a way of making that assessment. That is one of the lenses through which we shall be looking at the spending review.

Rachel Reeves Portrait Rachel Reeves (Leeds West) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

19. Climate change is increasing the risk of flooding, and despite devastating floods in my constituency in 2015, the Government have not yet committed funding for the one-in-200-year scheme that the Chief Secretary knows is needed to protect businesses in Kirkstall in my constituency. The gap now is just £23 million, so will the Government make it a priority in the comprehensive spending review, even if that spending review is just for one year? [911020]

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard

I agree with the hon. Lady that Leeds does need flood protection. I remember visiting with her a few years ago to see the scheme. We have already achieved phase 1 with the £32 million for that, and the Government are putting forward £65 million for phase 2. My understanding is that Leeds City Council is keen to work with us on that, and we are keen to make progress.

Mr Speaker Hansard
21 May 2019, 12:04 p.m.

Anneliese Dodds.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds (Oxford East) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 May 2019, 12:04 p.m.

Thank you, Mr Speaker; take two. The Environment Secretary said to Extinction Rebellion that he, at least, had got the message, but of course days later his Government were panned by the Solar Trade Association for new tax changes that will affect solar and storage schemes. That contrasts with Labour’s announcement last week of plans for 1.75 million households to benefit from the solar energy revolution. So will this Government abandon the damaging changes to VAT, match Labour’s solar investment plans and actually start taking renewables seriously?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard

As I said, we have an exemplary record in terms of our reduction of carbon. We are the top performer in the G7. It would be good to hear Opposition Members acknowledge the massive progress that we have made. The fact is that we are going to make more progress not by supporting a bunch of anti-capitalists that glue themselves to public transport, but by using market mechanisms instead, helping the economy grow. That is the way we improve the environment.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab) - Hansard

10. What assessment the Government have made of the environmental effect of freezing fuel duty since 2010. [911011]

Break in Debate

Sarah Champion Portrait Sarah Champion - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 May 2019, 12:22 p.m.

The report by the all-party group on adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse demonstrated the economic impact of not supporting victims: 72% said it had had a negative impact on their career; 65% on their education; and 46% on their financial situation. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury said about survivors that

“it should be government’s responsibility to prioritise support for these people”.

Will the Chancellor prioritise support for these services in the spending review?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Elizabeth Truss) - Parliament Live - Hansard

I had a very useful meeting with the hon. Lady a month or so ago, and we are now taking forward the work and evidence she presented us with and working with the Home Office on looking at the economic benefits of taking more action to help survivors of child sexual abuse. It is a priority for the spending review to make sure we deal with violence against women and girls.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

T2. The Government have an excellent track record in tackling climate change, notwithstanding what Opposition Members said earlier, and I applaud their commitment to doing more. Will the Chancellor consider introducing incentives in the comprehensive spending review to encourage occupiers and owners of industrial and agricultural buildings to improve their energy efficiency? [911027]

Break in Debate

Michael Tomlinson (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 May 2019, 12:27 p.m.

Ten days ago, I met heads and chairs of governors from across my constituency at Corfe Hill School. Will the Chief Secretary to the Treasury meet me to discuss their specific concerns about schools funding, and the need for additional funding for our schools in Poole and in Dorset as a whole?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard

I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend. We are looking at schools funding, alongside other funding, as part of the spending review. It is a public priority, and we are taking it very seriously.

Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD) Parliament Live - Hansard

T3. We are the last generation that can act to prevent irreversible harm from being done to our planet, so we need to act with urgency. Will the Chancellor bring forward the tax on the use of virgin plastic to boost recycling and incentivise plastic-free options? We do not have three years to wait. [911028]

Break in Debate

Mr Speaker Parliament Live - Hansard
21 May 2019, 12:32 p.m.

What we want is a brief sentence on the Government’s policy. We are not having dilations on the policies of other parties; that is not the purpose of Question Time.

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard

I think the idea that an industry could be nationalised not at market value is completely wrong; that is fundamentally against the principle of property rights on which our entire economy is built.

Judith Cummins Portrait Judith Cummins (Bradford South) (Lab) - Hansard

T6. The Government’s Social Mobility Commission recently stated that social mobility in the UK has stagnated over the last four years. One of its key recommendations is that the Government should significantly increase funding for further education in the upcoming spending review. Given that Bradford College plans to cut 131 of its staff, will the Chancellor listen to his Government’s own commission, boost FE funding and give the most disadvantaged students the opportunities they deserve? [911031]

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 May 2019, 12:33 p.m.

I am working very closely with the Department for Education, looking at the FE sector and at the new qualifications we are introducing, such as T-levels, and making sure the sector is sustainable in the future. We are also reforming it to deliver the best possible outcome for students.

Dr Caroline Johnson Portrait Dr Caroline Johnson (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 May 2019, 12:33 p.m.

What estimate has my right hon. Friend made of the effect on national debt of nationalising the National Grid and the effect it would have on the taxes paid by ordinary working people and the public services they receive in my constituency?

Break in Debate

Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow (Taunton Deane) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 May 2019, 12:34 p.m.

I am pleased to hear that education is going to get a special focus in the forthcoming spending review. Please can Somerset have special consideration, since pupils there get way below the national average in both secondary and primary school funding? With a sound economy, I am sure that we can sort this out.

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 May 2019, 12:34 p.m.

I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet my hon. Friend to discuss this issue. The reality is that there is a big gap in funding, with the lowest-funded authorities getting approximately £4,300 per pupil and the top-funded authorities getting £6,800. We are looking at that, because we have to have fairness across the country.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 May 2019, 12:34 p.m.

Revenue funding continues to flow to oil refineries in the middle east at the expense of tidal technology, an area in which we are a world leader. When will this Government accept that investing in tidal energy would bring huge benefits to the whole economy?

Break in Debate

Steve Double Portrait Steve Double (St Austell and Newquay) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 May 2019, 12:34 p.m.

I met headteachers and school governors across Cornwall recently, and they are very concerned about the pressure that their school budgets are under, so can I put in my bid for more money for education in the comprehensive spending review, and can we ensure that that money is fairly distributed so that schools in Cornwall get their fair share?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 May 2019, 12:34 p.m.

It sounds like I will not need to conduct any more meetings, because we can just continue this debate in the Chamber. I hear what my hon. Friend says, and I agree that there is unfairness across the system. We are working on that at the moment.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 May 2019, 12:34 p.m.

Wherever the Royal Navy deploys, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary deploys alongside it, but instead of getting the 2.9% pay increase that the sailors got, RFA personnel got a below-inflation 1.5% increase. As the total cost of the difference is only £400,000, will the Government think again and give our brave RFA crews the pay rise they deserve?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 May 2019, 12:34 p.m.

Royal Fleet Auxiliary personnel are part of the civil service, so this is a matter for the Cabinet Office, alongside the Ministry of Defence, but I am sure that it will have heard the hon. Gentleman’s representations.

Justine Greening (Putney) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
21 May 2019, 12:34 p.m.

As the questions today have demonstrated, the Treasury needs to take a much longer-term view of investing in people and their human capital, just as it does in relation to physical capital. When is the Office for National Statistics’ human capital review finally going to report? It was announced in March 2018, but I cannot even find out whether its consultation has been published yet.

Oral Answers to Questions

Elizabeth Truss Excerpts
Tuesday 9th April 2019

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
HM Treasury
Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard

4. If he will end the freeze on working-age benefits. [910299]

Elizabeth Truss Portrait The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Elizabeth Truss) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 11:52 a.m.

Thanks to our stewardship of the economy and the fact that wages are now rising above inflation, we are able to move on from the benefits freeze. From April 2020, we expect that increases will resume in line with inflation.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 11:52 a.m.

That entirely misses the point. Research by the Resolution Foundation published last week confirms that the value of child benefit is at a record low, 40 years after it was introduced. Meanwhile, the shambolic Tory Government throw good money after bad in their botched Brexit plans. Is it not time for the Chief Secretary to speak to the Chancellor and ask him to get his priorities right and to give families a much-needed pay rise?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 11:52 a.m.

I would have thought that the hon. Lady would welcome the fact that unemployment in Scotland is at a record low level, thanks to our policies of getting more people into work and of making work pay.

Kirsty Blackman Portrait Kirsty Blackman (Aberdeen North) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 11:53 a.m.

Yesterday marked the beginning of the fourth year of the benefits freeze. Since it was brought in in 2016, the consumer prices index has increased by 6.6%, but working-age benefits have been frozen. That literally means that those in the most need can afford fewer necessities. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation says that by 2020, the benefits freeze will have pushed 400,000 into poverty. How can the Chancellor justify that?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 11:53 a.m.

I would have thought that the hon. Lady would welcome the fact that we are ending the benefits freeze. It is responsible to do so only when people in work’s wages are rising. Thanks to our economic reforms, our reforms to employment law and our welfare reforms, we are now able to do that.

Kirsty Blackman Portrait Kirsty Blackman - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 11:54 a.m.

The benefits freeze is a political choice made by this Conservative Government and this Conservative Treasury; it is not a necessity. It is one of the biggest cuts to social security we have seen in recent times. The entire cost of the work allowance concessions over three years amounts to less than the benefits freeze takes away in one year. When FTSE 100 chief executive pay has increased by 11% in the past year, is it not now time that the UK Government got their priorities in order and protected those who need it most rather than giving tax cuts to the richest?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard

The hon. Lady obviously has not heard my answer that we are now moving to a situation in which benefits will rise in line with inflation, but let us be honest about the choices that the Scottish Government are making. Their choice is to raise taxes on people earning £50,000 by £1,500 a year, driving business out of Scotland and making the Scottish economy less successful.

Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk (Cheltenham) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

5. What steps he is taking to increase take-home pay for low-paid workers. [910300]

Break in Debate

Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck Portrait Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields) (Lab) - Hansard

8. What recent assessment his Department has made of trends in the level of pay since 2010. [910303]

Elizabeth Truss Portrait The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Elizabeth Truss) - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:03 p.m.

Pay has increased by 20% since 2010, we have a record number of people in work and wages are growing at their fastest pace for 10 years.

Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck Portrait Mrs Lewell-Buck - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:04 p.m.

I thank the Minister for that answer. However, the ongoing benefit freeze will result in those on very low incomes being more than £800 worse off by 2020. Meanwhile, tax cuts for the rich mean that those who earn more than £60,000 will be better off. The UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights said that UK poverty is a direct result of political choices, so when will the Government address the fact that their political choices have led to one in eight people who are in work living in poverty?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard

At the Budget in 2018, we put an extra £630 into the pockets of working families on universal credit. The way we will make sure that our country succeeds is by increasing economic growth, building more houses and cutting the cost of living, not by saying that business is the enemy and trying to crash our economy.

Chris Heaton-Harris Portrait Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con) -